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Is Middle School Too Early to Start Thinking About College Readiness?

Many years ago, I read this wonderful article called, The Forgotten Middle, published by the ACT. The messaging was clear: middle school students had been forgotten about when it came to college and career exploration.  In elementary school there are tons of career days and people asking kids, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" During the middle school years, those kinds of questions start to dwindle. Then at the high school level we all know the importance of test prep, joining extracurricular activities, working towards leadership roles, taking the “right” classes,  and becoming a straight ‘A’ student. But for some students knowing the importance of the elements listed above does not happen by osmosis. These important milestones have to be taught in context so that students own them and begin to take responsibility for shaping their futures.  

Some of our students need a little or a lot of exploration prior to starting high school learning, so they can set proper goals and develop a strategy to get them to where they want to be.  The last thing that we want is for our children to get to senior year and have no clue what they want to major in or what path they need to take to meet their career objectives. According to Dr. Peter Stokes, Managing Director of Huron Consulting Group, [One thing universities and other educational institutions can do to help students choose a career path that fits them] “is to begin helping students as early as middle school, but also in high school, think about what sorts of careers they want to pursue and to expose them to what pursuing certain careers might mean in terms of their earning potential, in terms of their lifestyle”.

During my "Middle School College Exploration" Working Group, I seek to teach parents how to create a foundational impact on their children to help them begin to identify their strengths and interests, explore careers, and ultimately, be able to choose the postsecondary option that will allow them to accomplish their career goals. This includes informing and engaging parents in assisting their students with planning for high school to begin their career path and the ability to capitalize on any post-secondary option of their choice.

Based on research from the Kinder Institute, only 21% of 8th graders (Cohort 2004-2015) in Houston, will graduate with a post-secondary credential. This is alarming, given that “by 2020, 65% of all American jobs will require education beyond high school”. With this is mind, it is imperative that we begin informing students and parents, as early as possible, of the necessity of post-secondary planning and education and the pathways to achieve these desired outcomes. 

With my current staff, we believe that by the end of each year of middle school our students should know and be able to do the following:

Middle School College Exploration Goals

With the growing competitive nature of the post-secondary climate, I encourage you to join me in a 4-week parent Working Group "Middle School College Exploration" starting in June 2020. This live, collaborative, video conference will offer parents resources and advice to ensure that their children are adequately prepared to make informed decisions about high school and the postsecondary options that will propel them into their futures.